Archives for the month of: July, 2015

lgbt-rainbow-confederate-flag

I’m pretty flexible on most things, but there are certain topics…not so much. I’m passionate about learning what God went to so much trouble to reveal about himself in the Bible and his history with those who choose to love him back. I’m passionate about sharing what God has taught me. I’m passionate about those that God has given me to love, both family and close friends. I expect the best from them and for them. I’m passionate about life and hope, and I vehemently oppose those who restrict either. I’m passionate about music and travel and education.

But deeply held passions typically lead to pet peeves. My passion for God’s Word can make me disdainful of those who use God as a tool for their personal agenda. My passion for language makes me utterly irritated with professional speakers or journalists who appear unaware of some basic grammar rules. My passion for those I love often makes me intolerant of their choices that cause them regret. I usually am incapable of maintaining a cheerful disposition with those who zoom past a line of traffic and then insist that those who have waited and merged safely let them cut in line, or those who expect kindness and generosity, but show none. Dishonesty, discourtesy, incompetence, and selfishness are far more likely to cause me anger than move me to mercy.

In recent days I’ve watched as too many in this country have used their passion as an excuse for prejudice, rejection, rioting and hatred. Indulging our pet peeves leads us to arrogance and intolerance. Both passions and peeves handled selfishly can engender increased problems, rather than progress. Both sides live in such a way as to prove their enemies right.

Human nature hasn’t changed much. Jesus had to battle the passions and peeves of his generation. The Pharisees were passionate about defending the rules they had created to enforce God’s law. Any who didn’t honor their authority and obey them were punished. The Pharisees focused on their rules for the Sabbath and ensuring that God stay in the box they created for him, insisting that all around them agree with them. Jesus tried to teach them a better understanding of Sabbath and to see God as he really was. Rather than testing what Jesus said for truth, they tried several times to stone him, and eventually orchestrated his crucifixion.They came face to face with God incarnate and missed him because he didn’t support their passionate perspective.

I fear that our generation has gotten so arrogant in our passions and peeves that we too will miss God. We believe only the facts that prove us right and arrogantly dismiss all who disagree with us. Whether it is a Confederate flag or gay marriage or our chosen political party, those who disagree with us become our pet peeves. God’s call on each of us is individual….we don’t get to impose what we like on people who disagree with us. We do have to consistently seek God’s will and guidance for ourselves. Sometimes that may look like mercy; sometimes it may look like justice. But either way our response must be obedience to God, not self-centered arrogance. Those who disagree with you may be wrong….your response to them may be wrong as well and you may miss the opportunity to help them see your point of view. Those who disagree with you may be right….your response may prevent you from ever understanding that. I encourage you to sacrifice your passions and peeves and let God show you what your response should look like. Live in such a way as to prove your enemies wrong about you.

Advertisements

pharisees

When I was young, I liked to envision what my future would be. My DNA would pull heavily from the tall, thin people in my extended family. God would lead me into the college and career where I would be deliriously happy, and I would change the world for good. I would always be near my mom and dad and brother, and we would be the picture perfect family. The friends I had then would stay my friends forever. I also had all sorts of plans and expectations for the husband and children God would give me. I knew what kind of house we would live in and what kind of vacations we would take. I had planned out my children’s education and careers, and we would all live happily ever after.

I do have a great life with wonderful people around me, but my life doesn’t look much like anything that I planned. I could spend my time trying to force my present to match the expectations of my past. I could spend my time pouting because what I wanted back then doesn’t match what I have now. OR I can trust that the God who has gently led me through these decades still knows exactly what he is doing, and be thankful for and find joy in the blessings I have now that I couldn’t even imagine back then.

John 7 gives a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the crowds and the Pharisees during Jesus’ ministry. They were the best educated of their time. They knew the history of God’s love for his people, and they knew the scriptures. They’ve been praying for a messiah, a Christ, for hundreds of years. Their zeal for God’s law was admirable. They were utterly committed to what they knew of God. But a good start does not guarantee a happy ending. When Jesus showed up, he did miracles that amazed them. He taught with understanding and authority they couldn’t explain or ignore. He made the crowds curious and the Pharisees furious.

The problem was that the Pharisees didn’t really want a messiah; they wanted their own power and expectations to be protected. They wouldn’t tolerate what they didn’t approve. They wanted to protect what they had and insisted that God stay in the box they fashioned for him. They had decided what this Christ would be and do, and this Jesus didn’t match what they had planned. So, rather than consider the truth of his teaching or the power of his miracles, they focused on proving that they were still right and this Jesus had to be wrong…and they missed sweet fellowship with God Incarnate. God didn’t obey them, so they trusted themselves instead.

How did the Pharisees who probably began their lives with a desire to serve God end up executing him? How do we begin seeking God’s presence and end up ignoring his calling and manipulating our own will? Forcing the vision of our past on our present won’t change God, but it might separate us from him.

Anyone who thinks the Bible is an irrelevant, boring, outdated book clearly has not read it. My study of the gospel of John has shown me that Jesus’ time on earth had the same tedium, hassles, disappointments, and threats from enemies and bullies that we still deal with every day. He responded with love and grace for all who would receive it from him. But the Pharisees saved their love only for themselves. In their zeal to enforce their religion and power on all those around them, the Pharisees lost the opportunity to see God.

What will you do when your circumstances don’t match your expectations? When God insists on being God, rather than a genie who grants your every wish? We could learn a lot from the Pharisees. A relationship with Jesus the Christ is still changing minds and hearts, 2000 years later. Pharisees no longer make the rules or have the power. May we learn from their example and remember that God does not obey us; we obey him, even when our circumstances don’t match our plans.

king

Protection from enemies. Healthcare. Free stuff. Some things never change. Listening to those who are seeking the party nominations reminds me of a Bible story.

In John 6 Jesus miraculously fed 5000 with a boy’s lunch. He healed them and taught them, and they liked it. Jesus gave them what they wanted, so they wanted to make him king. Knowing that their desires were selfish, not godly, Jesus evaded them and went off to be alone with his Father.

We want to give authority to those who agree with us, and we want those we disagree with to be destroyed…or at least go away. I fear that far too many Americans vote strictly along party lines. Too many voters make minimal effort to be educated on the problems our country is facing, and pin their confidence on factless sound bites that support what they want to believe. When a candidate tells us what we want to hear, we want to give him (or her!) power. The problem is, we don’t measure what we want to hear against sound principle or the facts. We are not inclined to let our opinions be clouded by facts that don’t support us.

Since the invention of the TV, our elections have been more about image than content. Elections have been lost because a candidate stumbled on an answer, because he lost patience with a persistent heckler, or because they lacked the good looks and charisma captured by the TV camera. Candidates now hire people to make sure their image is impressive. The problem is, America doesn’t need a poster boy; we need a statesman. We don’t need a slick politician who seeks to further his own career; we need someone who is committed to what is right for the people of America. We need a leader with integrity and sound understanding of our domestic and international relationships and problems. Entire campaigns are built around sound bites and photo ops – neither one of which will address or assuage the crises in our nation.

The people of Greece are facing utter financial collapse. Their government has been insolvent for some time, but they elected a man who told them that they could continue doing what they’d been doing in the past and things would get better. They defeated the man who told them that saving their country would require higher taxes and fewer government sponsored perks. Now they are adamant that the European Union continue to provide them what they refuse to provide for themselves. Europe is not inclined to sacrifice so that the Greeks won’t have to. They face a referendum this weekend, and they will have to choose between what they want to hear and the facts about their future.

We still want a king. We will give him power if he will give us what we want. We want slick promises that things will get better and that it won’t cost us anything. Anytime we give power to those who tell us what we want to hear, we leave God out of the process. In the Old Testament the people demanded that Samuel appoint a king over them. God reminded Samuel that the people weren’t rejecting Samuel’s authority; they were rejecting God’s authority. I believe the people of America have far more in common with the people of Samuel’s day and the nation of Greece than we want to admit.

I dread the endless campaign commercials connected with a presidential campaign, but I intend to use each one as a reminder to immediately go to God in prayer, that he would help us elect the leader we need, not the leader we deserve. What would happen if the people of this nation repented of our arrogance and sought God’s will in handling the fear and hatred and selfishness and immorality of our nation?

II Chron 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.